• ‘No such thing as fake rice’

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    The Grains Retailers’ Confederation of the Philippines Inc. (Grecon) has expressed alarm over the wildfire-like spread of news and social media posts on fake rice in the country.

    “There’s no such thing as fake rice, only fake news,” Grecon president James Magbanua said in a news conference on Friday.

    Magbanua added that no fake rice had been discovered, saying the fake news on rice has been used to harass Grecon members.

    “We are offended by insinuations that members of Grecon deliberately put additives in or sell fake rice to the consuming public. It took us years to build our reputation and we will not allow this malicious fake news to taint and destroy our image,” he said.

    Magbanua added that they have received several reports that retailers were being harassed by consumers, who were asking for a cavan of rice in exchange for a kilo of alleged fake rice they had bought.

    The grains group condemned the irresponsible sharing of fake news on social media, especially those matters involving fake rice, saying lack of discernment helped create a new modus operandi, which specifically targets grains retailers.

    “There is a clear concerted effort to defraud and harass the members of Grecon,” Magbanua said.

    He added that they are ready to file appropriate criminal charges to hold accountable persons liable, be it from the consumers’ or the retailers’ side.

    “We would like to solicit the help and support from the NFA, DTI, DICT and other concerned law enforcement agencies to address the issue of fake rice, specially identifying and bringing to justice those who unscrupulously spread the fake rice issue, and those taking advantage of the situation by falsely claiming to have been victimized by the same,” Magbanua said.

    NFA is the National Food Authority; DTI, the Department of Trade and Industry; and the DICT, the Department of Information and Communications Technology.

    The group also questioned the timing of the circulation of the fake reports on rice.

    It was also around this time in 2015 when similar reports on fake rice became news, creating panic among consumers.

    Meanwhile, NFA Administrator Jason Aquino urged the public to be more vigilant and report to the agency any suspicious or unusual rice being sold in the market, so they can verify and take samples for laboratory analyses.

    Aquino also on Friday assured consumers that there is no “fake rice” being sold in the domestic market, citing laboratory tests conducted by the agency’s Food Development Center (FDC).

    The FDC conducted three laboratory analyses on six raw and two cooked rice samples submitted using microscopic analysis, starch analysis and sensory evaluation to test if these contain harmful chemicals.

    “A total of 6 rice samples were subjected to analysis… the result of all samples [showed real]rice, there is no fake rice,” Aquino said in a news conference in Quezon City.

    Allegations of fake rice being sold in the local market surfaced after a certain Rafael Furo posted a video on social media and claimed that the rice he purchased in Signal Market in Taguig City is actually plastic.

    Other incidents involving alleged fake rice were reported in Litex Market in Commonwealth, Quezon City; Davao; Borongan, Samar; Dumaguete City; and Cebu.

    Aquino said intentionally spreadingwrong information about plastic or fake rice is punishable by law.

    JAMES KONSTANTIN GALVEZ

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